Tag Archives: jazz guitar for beginners

Jazz Beginners: 7 Habits That Keep You Stuck Forever!

There are a few habits that you need to quit if you don’t want to be stuck as a jazz beginner forever. Some of them might be a bit hard to give up, one of them will probably offend a few you, but it is worth it to get this right.

Let me know which one you think is most important or if I forgot to mention one!

#1 Thinking in Scales

Let’s start with some practical music theory, that helps you play better,  because this is a very common problem that you can do a lot about with very little effort. I certainly remember this part of learning Jazz from when I was just getting started.

It is pointless to try to translate chord progressions or songs to scales! So just Stop doing that! Simply because that is not actually helping you play better, it just isn’t useful information, and It will only help you to sound like you are practicing scales on top of the song:

You need to change how you think about what notes to play.  When you improvise Jazz then you are using scales that have 7 (or more) notes which means you can add a lot of color, but it also means that you need to be able to choose the right notes and be aware of what notes you are playing,

which is maybe different from what you are used to with the pentatonic scale. But you actually want it to be the same as the pentatonic scale, you don’t want to think about it when you are playing.

Let’s say you have a Dm7 chord and that is the II chord in C major,

you want to have different priorities for the notes in the scale. You want to be aware that the Dm7 chord tones are stronger or closer to the chord.

Having that overview makes it easier to play something that nails the sound of the chord, but you want to go a step further than just having that overview of the notes:

When you improvise over a chord then you are not starting from scratch every time, so you want to have a vocabulary of flexible licks that you can use in your solo and put together in different ways, so for the Dm7 you might know that you can use an Fmaj7 arpeggio

and that a certain chromatic phrases sounds great:

And if you put these two together you get:

The important thing here is that you have blocks of melody that you can hear and not theoretical notes that you have to think in your head while playing.

And that knowledge should be flexible so that you can create new things with the building blocks, not just play the same licks every time.

Practice your scales and arpeggios,  but make sure to also learn vocabulary using them so that you have some melodies that go with it, which is probably how you played a solo in the Pentatonic scale. You need something that is music not just theory and technique. Later I will also show you how you can fix the way you think about chords and chord progressions, because that can also be very inefficient!

#2 A 4-bar Loop is NOT a song

I guess Ed Sheeran and Daft Punk might disagree with me on this, but a 4-bar loop is not really a song, and if you want to learn Jazz then you also need to learn Jazz songs, and jazz songs are rarely just 4-bar loops. Learning songs is going to get difficult if you are only practicing looped II V I progressions or a static maj7 chord or something like that.

It is the kind of thing that can be beneficial to do for a period, but you probably don’t ever want to only be doing that for more than a few days. Learning songs, learning real music is much too important, and you don’t go to a Jam session to play an II V I in Eb for 20 minutes. You go there to play songs, so that is what you need to learn!

Of course, The first song can be very difficult to get through but if you pick an easy one then it is far from impossible, and you can check out my Roadmap course if you want a step-by-step guide to take you through that process, learning to solo on a standard.

The Roadmap: http://bit.ly/JazzGtRm

I have fun helping students in the community with feedback as they solo with the material on a Jazz standard and build their skills, it has become a great place to hang out.

#3 Chords Are NOT Islands

If you are trying to learn songs then it can be difficult to remember all the chords in there. Most Jazz standards are 32 bars,

so that is probably more than 32 chords you need to remember. The thing is that you should not be thinking about each chord at all because that is making it a LOT more difficult! Instead, you want to chunk the chords together.

If you know how to do that then you don’t need to remember as many chords. It is like learning to read the words in a sentence instead of trying to memorize all the letters in there. Improvising should also be more about playing through groups of chords.

For this, You want to learn to recognize these harmonic building blocks in the chord progressions, just start with II V I’s and turnarounds but make sure to learn more,

because that will make it 1000x easier to learn chord progressions by heart, and it also makes it easier to hear a chord progression because hearing a Dm7 out of context(example)  is not as easy as hearing a turnaround (example). The building blocks make it closer to something you can hear, relating it to a bass melody or how other songs sound.

Remember to let me know in the comments which habit is most important for you, or if there is one I forgot to include.

#4 Working On The Wrong Exercises

A way to transition smoothly from 3rds to triads to 7th chords  (or each of those exercises)

When I went from playing Blues and Rock to playing Jazz, then one of the transitions that was difficult to get used to was learning to improvise with 7-note scales like the major scale instead of pentatonic scales.

For me, it took some time before I figured out how to learn the scales and what to practice, especially when it comes to Jazz. I started with major scale exercises that might be useful for getting a bit more flexible with the scale in a technical sense, but they didn’t help me play Jazz. But you don’t need to do that, instead, you can focus on practicing the things that you need for Jazz solos. You don’t want to play 4-note sequences in a Jazz solo (Yngwie?)

You are better off focusing on diatonic triads and arpeggios, and also how to add chromatic leading notes to that, because that is what the jazz licks are made of. The way I always tell students to build this is by starting with the diatonic 3rds as a stepping stone

to diatonic triads

and then the 7th chords which are the main structure of most Jazz music.

When you work on these exercises then you are practicing things that you need when you solo and you make it easier to play lines like this:

So stop practicing things that you don’t need when you solo because that is probably a waste of time!

#5 Only Exercises

This is horrible about beginning Jazz and at the same time also one of the greatest things about Jazz:  There are so many possibilities and so many interesting and wonderful things to check out but you also have to watch out that you don’t get stuck just scratching the surface of a lot of stuff without really putting things to use.

If you are only practicing exercises and exploring new material without also playing music and putting the things you practice to use then you probably won’t learn what you are exploring and you also won’t get any better at playing Jazz which was the real goal to begin with. Don’t get stuck with only doing exercises! This is again an essential part of how I have constructed the roadmap, only a few exercises and then a practical way to turn them into music and help you get started playing solos!

Maybe this one is not a bad habit and more of a missing good habit, but if you are not listening to Jazz, you probably won’t ever learn to play Jazz. It is always a bit surprising that I have to say this at all, because why would you want to learn to play Jazz if you don’t listen to it?

I was talking to Adam Levy, who you may or may not know, he has been a guest on the channel quite a few times and has his own YouTube channel.

He mentioned some practice advice that he had received from Joe Diorio in a masterclass: Your practice sessions should always be 50% listening to music! If Joe Diorio recommends something then that is something you should consider, given how incredible and influential a musician he was.  But, you could also argue that this means that if you are driving and listening to Jazz then you are also practicing and you could be practicing while cooking or doing the dishes. Don’t underestimate how much you learn just by listening to a few albums of great music!

#7 Backingtrack Addiction

There is always a hot take in these videos…

One of the most important parts of learning a song and being able to improvise over it is being able to hear the harmony inside and being able to feel the time without leaning on the rest of the band and relying on them to carry you through it. The easiest way to get to that point is to practice with a minimal reference so that if you mess up the time or the chords then you immediately become aware of it. And of course, being aware of this and fixing it when you’re practicing is a lot better than messing up when you are playing with other people. One of my teachers pointed this out to me when I was studying, and I had never thought about it like that but Backing tracks are just always too easy. When it comes to practicing to play music and learning songs then you need to think about backing tracks as the chocolate cake of your practice routine, something that you enjoy at the end but which makes a terrible meal if you were to make it the only thing you eat.

Cut away the backing track and just play with a click. Start by playing the melody and the chords and then once you have the song in your ears you can start soloing. If you don’t believe me then just test it try starting with a metronome when you learn a song and once you can do that then you move to a backing track and notice how easy that is. Then try to do it the other way around, so start with the backing track, and then go to the metronome.  You will know what I talking about.

I know this is not what most people want to hear, but that does not make it any less true, and you can always leave some angry comments if that makes you feel better. Nobody who does the test I just sketched out will do that though, I am sure!

Bonus: What To Practice and How To Make It Into Music

An extra tip, related to practicing scales and how to do this right: In the beginning, it is very difficult to take the exercises and then turn them into music, into the flexible building blocks I mentioned. You need to add important ingredients like Rhythm, Phrasing, and Melody, but how do you do that? There is a way to build that skill, and you can get started with the method in this video where I even throw in some nice chromatic tricks as well that will make things flow and sound like your favorite Jazz guitarist!

I Wish Every Jazz Beginner Could Watch This!

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7 Skills Jazz Beginners Don’t Spend Enough Time On

One of the biggest mistakes Jazz Beginners make is to practice a lot but not develop the skills that really will get them further, in fact, a lot of practice is just wasting time and building bad habits. In this video, I want to go over 7 skills that will help you beome a better Jazz guitarist, some of these skills you might be working on already, but you can use the video to check if something is missing.

#1 How Long Should A Note Be?

I actually think this one is easier to fix than most of the other skills in this video, and I am sure that if I had recordings of myself from when I was starting out, then I definitely did not have this skill and was very much guilty of too many long notes!

If you ask classical musicians who don’t play guitar about their “nickname” for guitar they will probably tell you “staccato festival” meaning that the instrument has absolutely no sustain (which is sort of true compared to a trumpet or violin).

But in this case, it is the other way around. For Jazz

I am sure you can hear that the long notes sound a bit strange, and check out how short notes are much better at conveying the rhythm and connecting with the groove, and this is, of course, very important for Jazz.

This problem comes up very often with students in the roadmap,

(probably this is not a good shot of the roadmap, the other one later on in the video shows the prices… you know better if and which shot to use…)

but they do hear it and fix it quite fast. The first step is usually to work on just ending phrases on a short note, and sometimes getting used to hearing melodies that end on an off-beat also helps.

Of course, you want to play long notes sometimes as well, the important thing is that you are in control and that you choose, it should not be a habit.

Let’s move on to an online comment that really annoys me.

#2 Jazz Is Not A Looping II V I

I should probably watch out if this doesn’t turn into a rant about what learning music is really about.

Jazz is a style of music, and it has a repertoire, and part of learning to play that style is to learn to play the songs in the repertoire,

so if you want to learn Jazz then you need to start working on how to learn songs and trust me, you want to know a lot of songs!

One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Bernstein:

and you haven’t really learned anything until it is something you can use when you are playing real music.

All the Barry Harris solo masterclasses were about writing lines on songs, they were not about exercises, but about making music!

So you need to work on being able to learn songs, both from sheet music and by ear, just learn a lot of songs so that music theory describes music you already play and hear.
That way, you have music with diminished suspensions or altered chords,

and then theory isn’t theory, it is music.

This brings me to the type of comment that always irritates me: Every now and again I will get asked if I can give some suggestion on how to sound more modern, dark, or something like that on a II V I, and already in the question it becomes clear that the person asking is not learning any songs, just playing this loop of a II V I. A loop of a II V I is not a song, A song is a story, it has development, and twists and surprises, a loop is static. So keep in mind that if you were playing an entire song and not a static 4-bar loop it might not get boring as quickly.

But enough complaining, for at least a bit….

#3 Learning The Language

This is possibly a hot take or at least a delicate topic sometimes, but I think you can argue that Jazz has a certain language in the melodies we improvise, in terms of rhythm, flow, phrasing, and to some degree also what melodies are used. This is probably true for most styles of music, we can all hear when something is a blues lick, and if you want to learn to play Jazz then you need to check out vocabulary so that you get the sound into your playing. This can be checking out licks, and exercises

or what is probably the fastest way to improve: Learning solos by ear, something I have talked about often in videos.

So if you want to sound like Jazz then get good at learning Jazz vocabulary so that you know how it feels to play that, and how it is supposed to sound. A bonus, if you play along with solos that you have learned by ear is that you also improve your phrasing, timing, and swing feel which is also a part of the language.

#4 Make The Machine Swing!

Since I am on the topic of timing, swing-feel, and hearing the groove and the harmony, then that is all stuff that you want to improve, and another skill that will help you develop this is practicing with a metronome,

vastly underrated and a lot more fun than you think once you get used to it.

For Jazz, this is about playing with the metronome on 2 & 4, and learning to play songs and soloing like that will help boost your ability to:

  1. Keep time and feel time
  2. Hear the harmony internally
  3. Play in the groove

The concept is, of course, that you play and stay in time, keep the form, and lay down the groove. The difference between a metronome and a backing track is that it is much more difficult to play with a metronome, but if it swings then it is you. When you play with a backing track then if it swings it might be the backing track. If you look at how famous jazz guitarists practice then it is always a metronome, there are almost no exceptions. If you want to get started practicing with the metronome on 2&4 then I have a video for a few years ago on that topic,

You can check that out here: Practicing with the metronome on 2&4

#5 Putting Chords To Use

What I said about soloing is just as important for chords, so instead of just playing tons of inversions or other exercises on II V I progressions, you also need to work on putting those chord voicings to work on songs, and trust me, that will help you develop so much in terms of voice-leading, adding melodies and colors to your chords and all the other stuff that, like me, you probably love about Jazz and Jazz chords.

You can start rubato and explore the harmony and then later move it into time. Rhythm is also important here, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

#6 Make Your Own Licks!

A problem that I have also encountered myself often when trying to internalize new material, like for example a new way of playing an arpeggio or a chromatic phrase is that I know how to play it, but it doesn’t really work when I use it in a solo, and that is because an important step is missing between practicing something as a technical exercise and turning it into great lines in a solo. Again, also something that I help students with in the Roadmap frequently.

The missing step is composing lines or even entire solos. It is completely unrealistic that you can just immediately get every exercise you do to work in a solo, but composing is improvising slowly and with a way to go back and fix the lines so that they sound better and that you can figure out how the new thing should fit in there. This is a very effective way to introduce new material into your vocabulary, keep in mind that composing solos is also what Barry Harris’ solo masterclasses are built on,

so they probably also will work fine as a part of your practice.

#7 Chords Should Be Phrases Too

The worst way to think about the chords of a song is as a chord symbol with some extensions, simply because that is not music. What you want to work on is opening up those chord symbols so that you can improvise and connect the whole thing, you want to turn the chords into music.

For many jazz beginners, comping rhythms are a mystery and something that is very difficult to improve on, but that is probably because the problem is often not the rhythms, it is how you think about comping.

I am curious, so please leave a comment and let me know when you last practiced comping a song with the metronome on 2&4. Because if you start working with your comping like that and start thinking in phrases then it becomes so much easier to develop rhythms and sounds.

When you comp on a song then you can start thinking in call-response, and riffs and become more free, get the song to sound good, and don’t get stuck thinking about which rhythm or which extension to play.

Use Joe Pass’ Approach

To be able to play chords in phrases and get through songs then you don’t want to get stuck with too complicated chords that are not flexible, and Joe Pass has a really solid approach for building a chord vocabulary that I talk about in this video:

The Biggest Misunderstanding About Jazz Chords And How To Quickly Fix It

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One Of The Best Lessons I Ever Had (Jazz Beginner)

This concept really changed the game for me, which was pretty lucky because some of the early Jazz guitar lessons I had were not that great. My teacher was a good jazz guitarist but he only gave me licks and didn’t show use them or make them into something, except for this one lesson which made a massive difference.

You have to imagine that at the time I was practicing the licks, scales, and arpeggios and trying to make my way through simple songs, but failing pretty badly because there was no real connection between what I was practicing and how I was supposed to use it. It was probably only because I am a pretty stubborn person that I didn’t quit.

There is a good chance that you also know how it feels to practice the dry stuff like exercises, scales, and arpeggios but you can’t put it together and turn that into playing solos that sound right.

A Great lesson!

This was one of the first times that I had a lesson where I was shown how to create a line following a recipe.

We were playing a blues in C, I was making a terrible mess of it and could barely follow the form because I was too busy thinking about the chords. When he was soloing, then he played a phrase in bar 6 after coming back to C7 from F#dim, and that caught my attention so I asked him what that was.

He told me, I am by the way translating this from Danish (and memory since it is more than 25 years ago) that it was a “chromatic phrase” leading into an arpeggio. Then he showed me the arpeggio, and how he had a 4-note phrase leading into it:

I’ll show how this is just the beginning of a way to help you develop your phrasing, and make more interesting melodies because it is more powerful than you think. My teacher then showed me how you can use the same chromatic phrase for other notes in the arpeggio like the root:

and the 7th:

What he described as a “chromatic phrase” is what usually is referred to as a chromatic enclosure, so a short melody using chromatic passing notes

that moves to a target note from above and below, and as you will see or hear, direction is incredibly important.

This concept is simple like instant noodles that most students eat when they don’t have any money, just add water and you have food, well.. “food” It is a 2-ingredient recipe for Jazz licks which in itself is a great thing if you are new to Jazz.

But maybe you are now wondering what is the big deal?

I will show you how the enclosures help you deal with a part of Jazz phrasing that most beginners really struggle with, but the first more obvious part of it is that it is flexible. It will work with other arpeggios as well, so you can create a lot of lines like this. Here’s a version with a Cmaj7:

`

And we have more options when it comes to the chromatic enclosures. Another good one could be this which is also 4 notes and is sometimes referred to as a double chromatic enclosure. You can probably see why

So as you noticed, it moves to the target note in half-steps from two directions:

Until now the chromatic enclosures have been using 4-notes, which makes them easy to use as building blocks, but there are also 2 and 3-note enclosures that are very useful and as you will see, the 2-note enclosures are very powerful and flexible.

The Beginner’s Problem With Phrasing

But first, let’s talk about one of the main reasons that beginners find it difficult to play solos that sound like Jazz.

There are a few levels of beginner solos where you might find yourself. Maybe you are only improvising with the arpeggio:

You can also add the scale notes, and keep in mind that these examples are not wrong, they are just also not great:

And if you are a bit further then you are adding chromatic passing notes, but as you can hear that also doesn’t really fix this:

I am overstating it a bit in these examples, but what is missing is that the notes don’t have interesting accents, the lines are heavy and the accents are on the downbeat.

And that is because what makes the Jazz lines work and have interesting rhythms is these accents, and they should be where the melody changes direction on an offbeat, and if you look at the first lick then you have two of those, try to listen:

Here you have a change of direction on 1& and on 3& in the arpeggio,

so the line has more energy and isn’t stuck on the heavy beats in the same way as the previous examples. Starting to get this into your playing and being able to hear phrases that move like that will make you sound 100x better. Of course, you can’t think about where in the bar you change direction while you are soloing, which is why these are so great. I’ll talk more about this later.

It is not Enclosures or Passing notes

A short side-note before we add some more flexible enclosures and some Barry Harris tricks: Keep in mind that what I am saying here is not that you shouldn’t use passing notes, the passing notes are a part of it, and the enclosures are the next level melodies that you build using passing notes. Even if the enclosures are a little more effort to play then they are also adding something important to your solo.

Something that you want to get into your playing, and If you start checking out solos then you probably won’t find a Jazz musician that doesn’t use enclosures of some kind. Sometimes when I talk about enclosures I get the comment that they don’t work and how passing notes are better, and, I think that is missing the point, you just want to be patient and keep practicing until you can use them. They will add something to your playing and they are a part of Bebop, especially this next type!

Keeping It Simple Makes It Powerful

I showed you 2 of the more “complicated” 4-note enclosures, but I didn’t explain how they are constructed which is also useful for some of the later exercises and if you want to make your own enclosures.

Usually, I try to look at enclosures as a mix of chromatic notes and diatonic notes in the scale, so the first enclosure would be chromatic below, diatonic above, chromatic above, and chromatic below.

and The way I used the 2nd enclosure you get diatonic above chromatic above, diatonic below chromatic below. I am sure you can see how this analysis is an interpretation, you could in some cases see the 1st note of example 1 as a diatonic note (example 6). This way of looking at the lick becomes very practical when you combine enclosures with the Barry Harris chromatic scale. I’ll show you later in the video because that is very powerful!

Check out how we can use this analysis to create a simple but very useful 2-note enclosure:

I’ll apply this to a triad because it is used like that very often in larger chunks just listen to Joe Pass or Barry Harris if you want an example of that, but these enclosures are EVERYWHERE and do so many amazing things, I’ll show you some examples.

For a C major triad:

You use a “diatonic above, chromatic below” for each note:

And since it is pretty easy then try to turn around the enclosure so it is “chromatic below, diatonic above” as well:

And, with these and another enclosure then you have a line like this:

And to give you an idea about how powerful this is: you don’t get something as complex or surprising just using passing notes.

Here’s an example with a few chords so you can hear how Bebop this actually sounds:

I think you can tell just how useful these are, and as I said if you look at solos they are everywhere. But this is not about having to think “I need to change direction” while you are playing a line, that’s too complicated. What you want to do is work on coming up with lines using these enclosures so that you hear melodies with that built into them, and that will automatically help you get that sound in there, it’s almost like a bonus.

Let’s add some Barry Harris to the mix and see how that opens things up!

Using Barry Harris For Variations

Let me first explain how this works and then how you can use it. Barry Harris Chromatic scale is a way to add half steps between all notes in a scale. The basic concept is that you either use a chromatic note if there is a whole step between two notes,

or you use the scale note above if there isn’t.

If I apply this to the C major scale then there are two places where I need to use a scale note above: between E and F  and B and C.

So in the key of C major then the Barry Harris chromatic scale would be:

The great thing is that now you can use Barry’s Chromatic scale as a way of moving around an enclosure in the scale,  and in that way get some other enclosures or other melodic ideas:

Let’s take this one which will give you some great variations:

It already sounds great as a Cmaj7 lick like this:

Just to understand the enclosure:

The target note is B and the phrase starts two diatonic notes above moving down with a passing note and then a half step below the target.

Let’s take it down the scale, keep in mind that I always just use a chromatic note from below, that always works, and it doesn’t need any special treatment. Check out how we get a lot of different phrases:

Target note: B

Target note: A

Target note: G

Target note: F

Target note: E

Target note: D

Target note: C

This gives you other phrases that all work and that you can use in lines, for example, this Dm7 lick using the D as a target note:

or mixing the version that has A as a target note with another Barry Harris concept, a Pivot arpeggio:

Barry Leads The Way To Great Phrasing!

Working through the material like this can give you a lot of useful phrases, and Barry’s system is fantastic for this and it does a ton of other stuff that will make your solos sound so much better and help you get rid of uninspired scale runs and overused licks, so check out this video to dive into that!

Why Barry Harris’ Approach Is So Much Better Than Bebop Scales!

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The 3 Guitarists I Wish I Checked Out As A Jazz Beginner

There is a downside to how we teach Jazz now, on one hand, it is very efficient and helps internalize important skills, but on the other hand, it is often very focused not taught using real music and teaching how others played which helps you understand the music in a broader way and also teach you other important things at the same time. There are a few guitarists that I was not really aware of while I was learning and didn’t discover until much later, but I think they could really have taught me some useful things and made learning Jazz easier. The 3 guitarists are sort of split into periods: one that is mostly before Bebop, one that is in the creation, and one that plays Bebop. I’ll talk about how one of them in a way is a bit like Van Halen 😁

#1 The Father of Bebop?

When I started out playing Jazz guitar, I was still studying Mathematics at the University of Århus. I was actually pretty lucky to get some pretty solid recommendations from my classical guitar teacher Morten Skott. This meant that I was not only listening to Charlie Parker who I had just discovered, but also had cheap compilation cd’s with Wes Montgomery and Charlie Christian. And even though I am talking about people that I didn’t really check out in this video, then I did actually learn some Charlie Christian solos by ear from that compilation cd, the problem with that was that while I could figure out some of his phrases and a few entire solos, at least I hope I got it right since I don’t really remember what I checked out, then I had no idea what the songs were or how to play them, and my theory was not good enough to tell me anything, so they were just solos and phrases I could play not even really knowing what key I was in.

My favorite from that album was Seven Come Eleven which is a really typical swing riff composition.

The main theme is:

So very rhythmic, repetitive, and only a few notes.

PLAY

I probably liked this because it was easier to understand and made more sense to me than some of the other tracks which had really interesting phrases with shifting dim runs like “Good Enough To Keep” Which has phrases like:

Of course, that is not really THAT complicated, but it was very far away from Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Rage Against The Machine which is where I was coming from.

The Solo from Seven Come Eleven is a great example of what I later felt I had missed:

As I already showed you then there are more complicated and dense phrases in Charlie Christian solos, but I really think that this lighter more sparse playing is something that really helps you get the rhythms to sound right, also later when you start playing longer bop lines.

All this stuff where it is just a few or even one note that is interesting because of the rhythm

And this is really just one area of the neck and strong basic Ab or Ab7 vocabulary to learn.

You can get so much from checking this out; I have also often used it with students.

The People who came after Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian was a huge influence on all of Jazz guitar, and when I listen to him now then I really hear how Barney Kessel was influenced by him, I believe they also met at one point, but I am not sure if that is true.

Let’s check out another guitarist that is criminally overlooked!

#2 Sideman of A Giant

I guess sometimes when you work with really famous artists as a sideman you end up standing in the shadow of them and not getting noticed. I think that sort of happened to Oscar Moore who is probably best known as “the guitarist of Nat King Cole” maybe a bit like George Martin being the 5th Beatle, but that is hard to say.

The Nat King Cole Trio stuff with Oscar Moore is from the mid-40s until the beginning of the 50s and since Nat King Cole was both an amazing musician and a commercial success, then a lot of the songs are short takes with a single or a half chorus of solo for the guitar.

This makes them fairly easy to learn, and Oscar Moore solos always have a lot of solid lines, but also some interesting phrasing. Check out this solo from Sweet Lorraine:

I sometimes feel that these shorter solos are really more similar to a solo that you might find in a pop or rock song, which I guess the song also was when it was released in 1940-something.

There are some solid simple melodies in this, and actually a fair amount of blues,

but also some stuff that is really a lot more about effects and surprising sounds. In this case by being very intervallic,

He also used long slides, bends, tremolo picking, and stuff like that to have different sounds.

That part of it pretty much disappeared when Jazz became more serious with Bebop and was supposed to be real art. Here it almost reminds me of stuff you might hear in a Van Halen or Steve Vai solo, where the sound is sometimes as important as the notes.

It’s more about sounds than about a longer melody, and since I am anyway making this a hottake then maybe Ellington’s saxophone player, Johnny Hodges also is an example of someone using phrasing and effects like that.

Keep in mind that I am not really saying anything about whether this is good or bad music, I am just showing you an aspect of their playing where they are similar. You can get rid of your anger in the comment section if it offends you that Johnny Hodges and Van Halen are similar.

In the case of Oscar Moore, it sort of makes some of his material more modern, and less Bebop because Bebop is much more about flow, and some of his phrases are intervallic and sort of the opposite of flowing, probably also because he wanted to not sound like the melody that had just been sung.

I felt that I learned a lot from how Oscar Moore mixes the different things in these short solos and Nat King Cole is fantastic both as a piano player and a vocalist! Another thing worth mentioning is that if you check out later Oscar Moore stuff then you really hear him develop with the times and start playing altered scale and more Bebop-influenced lines, similar to the next guitarist.

#3 The Shortcut To Bebop

This solo actually always makes me happy. Grant Green is probably the one of the 3 that I ended up spending the most time with, mainly because I have given his solos to a lot of students for them to learn Bebop vocabulary, and that is also how I heard this solo the first time, and how I discovered the standards album that he made. For guitarists then there probably is no better place to learn Bebop than Grant Green, his lines are absolutely incredibly melodic and his vocabulary is solid Bebop, and I am saying that while I still don’t like his tone on this album, but you can complain about that in the comments, first, check this out:

Within these 8 bars you have so many great things!

3 variations of  using the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord: Ebmaj7 over Cm7:

Bdim over G7:

and on Aø over F7:

A great pivot arpeggio with some chromaticism on Bbmaj7:

A line cliche turned into a bebop lick in the 2nd line with some really nice phrasing embellishments:

 

 

The King Of Bebop Guitar

And this is in 8-bars, and there are several places like this in the solo. The greatest thing about this is that he manages to make Bebop lines playable on guitar and still makes great music. If you want to develop that side of your playing then he is where you need to go next.  Especially how he mastered adding pivot arpeggios and large intervals to his playing and in that way not sounding like he is just running up and down scales, there are techniques for this that you can start using. 4 of the most common variations are all in the solo that I talk about in this video and that can really breathe new life into your Bop vocabulary and give you some fresh melodic ideas. The solo is on another standard: You Stepped Out Of A Dream

I Wish I Had Checked Out This Guy! His Solos Are Jazz 101 On Guitar

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I Wish Every Jazz Beginner Could Watch This!

You Are Practicing Arpeggios Wrong

Everyone on the internet and every guitar teacher you ever met probably told you to practice arpeggios.

But I remember spending hours practicing arpeggios and not really being able to do anything with them. Being able to play them doesn’t mean that you get them to sound great in my solos. It feels like you might be wasting your time

Luckily that isn’t too difficult to fix, and I’ll show you 7 ways you can turn any arpeggio into a solid Jazz line!  It is not super difficult, and really more about how you think about the arpeggios.

You can build all of this around a single exercise, because when you are starting out with Jazz then there is a right and a wrong way to practice arpeggios, and I would also suggest that you skip inversions for now but I will explain that later.

In Jazz, you mostly use arpeggios that are one octave, so it doesn’t really make a ton of sense to spend a lot of time practicing complete positions, instead,  you will be more efficient practicing them in a scale position as diatonic arpeggios.

That is the way you will hear them used the most in Jazz solos, and it is also a way to connect them to the scale and the other notes that they work together with, it covers a lot of stuff you will need along the way. I learned this exercise from Barry Harris and that is one of the most practical things to get right in the beginning.

Diatonic Arpeggios:

The focus is on turning these arpeggios into music, and I will show you how you add phrasing, notes, and rhythm to them because that is how they become Jazz lines, but first let’s keep it really simple and just improvise with the arpeggio because that will teach you some other important things as well.

#1 Arpeggios Are Enough If You Do It Right

Let’s say you want to solo over a II V I in C major, so Dm7 G7 to Cmaj7.

You need those arpeggios to play a solo over the progression, and luckily you already practiced them in the exercise.

It is a II V I, so in C major, we need the arpeggio from the 2nd note of the scale: Dm7, then from the 5th that is a G7 and then you can do this Cmaj7.

Connect that to the music and practice that on the II V I:

The first thing to do is to practice soloing with this, just try to come up with some lines, use rhythm and maybe compose or play rubato, notice how I am really careful in getting from one chord to the next.

And then after some time, you develop better rhythmical ideas and melodies and you can start making lines like this:

This is great for nailing the changes and developing some solid rhythms in your playing, but let’s open up the arpeggio with a few extra notes, that’s where it starts to get really fun!

#2 The First Thing To Add

The exercise I gave you connects the arpeggios and the scale, so if we look at a Cmaj7 arpeggio:

You can add scale notes to the mix in between the notes in the arpeggio.

That could give you a line like this.

Which turns into a lick like this:

Or a descending version like this:

Super easy! Barely an inconvenience. It is mostly about seeing the notes around the arpeggio and using them to move to a note in the arpeggio.

In these two lines that is how I think about the notes: something around the arpeggio.

Let’s add some notes that are a bit more exciting!

#3 The Jazz Thing To Add

I am talking about adding chromatic passing notes since you already have the diatonic notes from the scale.

You can do a LOT of things with chromatic passing notes, and there are systems that help with that, but for now, essentially you can do whatever you want as long as you resolve it to a chord tone. That is what I am doing in this example, check this out:

and just mixing chromatic and diatonic notes with the arpeggio can already give you this:

Of course, when you practice this then work on composing lines and find things that you like the sound of. One thing that can make them sound more like Jazz is by having the high note of the phrase on an off-beat like you heard the B in the last example on the 1&.

There is a way to make it easier to do that in your Jazz lines, that is the next level, but keep in mind that you can actually go through this video and just pick one of the topics to explore, write some lines, and work on getting that into your playing. It doesn’t have to be in this order.

#4 Going Around The Chord Tones

Instead of adding a single note here and there then you can also add small melodies that move to a chord tone from above and below, these are called enclosures. Let me show you these and then we can add some rhythm to the arpeggios.

A simple example of an enclosure could be a diatonic note above and a chromatic note below which for Cmaj7 could be something like this:

Remember that you are still seeing the Cmaj7 in the scale as well, and now you can create something like this, and try to compare how far this is from just playing the arpeggio:

And it is incredibly simple to create solid vocabulary here is one with an enclosure around the root and around the 5th:

With these enclosures:

#5 The Mighty Triplet

There is one way of playing arpeggios that is pretty much instant Bebop. When you hear it I am sure you will recognize it:

So I am playing the arpeggio as an 8th-note triplet and I am adding a leading note before the arpeggio. Now check out how this sounds when you add a few enclosures:

Or this example which is one of George Benson’s favorite licks that he probably learned from Charlie Parker:

I said that inversions are not so useful for Jazz lines, let me show you what you can do instead, and then I’ll show you some phrasing tricks.

#6 The Melodic Inversion

Similar to the triplet, then this is really a great technique for making your lines sound better, and not be too predictable. I mentioned in the beginning of the video that Inversions are not that useful for Jazz, this is mostly from observing vocabulary of Bop and a lot of later stuff, where inversions are not that common in lines when it comes to 7th chord arpeggios. Triads are a different story, there are Triads inversions all over the place.

Instead, this is a much nicer option: The Pivot arpeggio.

What I am doing here is taking the arpeggio:

But I play the root and then move the rest an octave down, so you still get the same order of notes but the last part is moved down an octave:

Using this and a bit of chromatic magic will give you a great line like this with the pivot arpeggio:

And you can of course use this on the higher octave as well and throw in an enclosure:

 

But one thing is changing the melody and the rhythm. You can also tweak how you play the notes on the instrument, the phrasing.

#7 It’s The Phrasing

Let’s start by sliding into a note, here it is the top note in the phrase:

You can add a slide later as well:

Another useful tool for phrasing is adding trills like this one:

Which sounds great like this:

Adding Chromatic Notes With Barry Harris’ system

In my experience, the best way to learn to use chromatic passing notes in your solos is using Barry Harris Chromatic Scale. But there is a lot more in there than you might think!

Why Barry Harris has the Best Method for Chromatic Notes

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5 Concepts Jazz Guitar Beginners Must Understand To Learn Faster

I think you should learn from my mistakes, so in this video I am going to go over 5 things that really slowed me down in learning Jazz, and that I now help students overcome so that they don’t get stuck along the way. When I look at how my students are progressing then it is easy to see that they get there a lot easier and a lot faster, and I am sure I would have too, so you want to get this right.

#1 Exercises Are Not Music

A lot of us come to Jazz when we already play the instrument and have experience with other styles of music, and since Jazz comes across as being difficult or complex (rocket science/music theory meme) then we often choose to be “a good student” and try to do all the exercises and put in the work. I really didn’t get this right in the beginning and spent way too much time thinking about what scale to play over which  chord, and end up using it on a progression that was completely abstract to me, something that didn’t have a melody, that wasn’t a song, but this is something you can fix. (abstract progression + me thinking? like a II V I that turns into an equation?)

You already know that just playing a scale or an arpeggio is not a solo phrase. The same goes for chords, you are not learning to comp by just learning a lot of inversions.

Learning Jazz is learning a musical language, and that you can’t learn with exercises just like you won’t learn Spanish by just reading a dictionary (Que)

If You want to learn how to improvise the you have to also actually improvise. And it is more than just the notes, you also need to know how to play phrases that sit right in the groove, and express something that fits with the music, know the song and know where you are in the song.

This:

Will never magically lead to this: Bebop line.

I think that is pretty obvious. And it means that you also need to learn some songs and some real music that you can play, because an arpeggio or any other exercise is not useful until you make it a part of the music, and you need to develop that skill as well.

None of this will work if you just do exercises and actually the worst plan I have ever heard from students, and I have heard it quite often, is “Before I start improvising I first I need to learn” and then insert:

#1 All scales in all keys or positions

#2 All Arpeggios in all keys

#3 All Chords in all inversions

That NEVER works.

The Most Important Song To Learn.

I think you could say that the most important song to learn is the first song that you REALLY learn.

When I started out then I wasn’t told to really learn songs so that I could easily play them by heart and use them to develop my improvisation skills, and that really slows you down. That is also why my course is a step-by-step guide teaching you that first song and so that you learn how to make music while you are improvising solos. Besides learning songs and soloing over them then there is one overlooked approach that is also incredibly useful…

#2 This Is How To Practice Improvisation

I am amazed at how rare it is to see this method is suggested for people who want to improve their vocabulary and learn how to play better Jazz lines with better phrasing, and speaking of phrasing I have a few quick fixes later in the video for that as well.

As a student, you are always told to practice slowly, and that is not any different for learning to improvise Jazz solos, but the problem that we all run into is that songs are not played that slow, and you can’t slow them down and still get it to make sense, so how do you practice improvisation slowly?

The answer to that is composition, which is essentially also how Barry Harris taught his masterclasses: composing bebop solos. If it is a good enough method for him then it is probably also an ok exercise for you. Let me demonstrate this with a practical example, and just to be clear, I still do this when I want to improve my solo lines, which is most days in the week.

Let’s say that I want to get better at using this chromatic enclosure:

For now I want to use it on a Cmaj7 chord, you can use it on a lot of things, but let’s start there. In the beginning, you just want to hear what it sounds like when you put it into lines.

Obviously, you can combine it with a Cmaj7:

So this is already fine, but let’s add a tail to it to make it a phrase:

Maybe it works with a descending Cmaj7 arpeggio

Of course, you need to spend some time experimenting and exploring how this all works, but that process really gets the sound of the enclosure into your ears and you find ways of creating playable lines that you can work on getting into your own playing.

This works really well in combination with solos you have learned by ear if you take your favorite phrases and try to make your own version of them. Sometimes it can be useful to write down what you come up with, but you don’t always have to. I think the biggest benefit is the process, not the licks you end up with, simply because you learn how to fit things together and they will come out in your solos.

It also really makes sense to watch Barry Harris teach and think of it as how to practice composing lines. You will learn a lot more and get a lot more options from that.

When learning Jazz then there are things that are more important than what notes you play in a solo I’ll get to that, but first let’s look at how you figure out how good (or bad) you are.

#3 How Do You Give Yourself Useful Feedback

One thing that I have to tell students all the time is that they can’t play a solo and at the same time tell how they are doing. And you can take my word for it, I record myself playing for a living and I have made ALL the mistakes that you can make while playing by now. (I have made a huge mistake)

If you want to know how YOU sound (and trust me, you do) then you have to record yourself playing and listen back!

This is incredibly useful for anyone trying to learn, but it is especially important if you are trying to teach yourself Jazz guitar. To make it more effective then there are a few things that you can keep in mind so that you don’t get distracted by your own brain when you listen, because listening to yourself can be a bit weird and difficult. (b-roll: me + headphones and me soloing)

#1 Record yourself often!

You get used to this, so the first few times it is weird and you get stressed out by all sorts of things, but that goes away with time.

#2 Decide what you are working on and listen for that.

This is simple: If you are working on phrasing or rhythm then don’t get lost in which arpeggios you use on altered dominants. Focus on what you are working on.

#3 Don’t Listen Right Away

Often when you just played something then you still remember what it felt like when you played it and you are not really listening but just reliving how it felt which is not helping you at all.

And it is when you start recording yourself that you probably discover the next thing you need to pay attention to, but I have a few quick fixes!

#4 Not The Notes You Play

This is often considered very difficult and vague, but it really doesn’t have to be. I am of course, talking about Jazz phrasing.

You may already have run into this, and I certainly remember when I felt like I was hitting a wall with phrasing: I know all the scales and arpeggios but my solos and what I play doesn’t sound the right way.

When I was starting out learning Jazz then the first problem I was confronted with was that I could not follow the chords and play a lot of wrong notes. It isn’t strange that I then focused on learning to play “the right” notes, but my focus on that came at a cost: I was not listening to how the phrases sounded nearly as much as what notes I was playing. So it really makes sense to become more aware of this early on.

There are a few ways to work on this, and some of them are really easy:

#1 End on a short note

I say this at least 3 times a week in the Roadmap community when I give feedback. Bebop is called Bebop because that is how the typical solo phrase ends, and that means it is a short note, Bebop On Guitar it is very difficult to play long notes so we learn that and make that the habit, but you need to take control of the notes and only play long notes when it makes sense.

#2 Play solos with fewer notes

The easiest way to develop phrasing and rhythm is to take away the other variables so that you have to focus on them. It can be super useful to voice-lead one or two notes through a song and then spend some time practicing soloing where you have to only use those notes. That will help you get more creative with, phrasing, rhythm and dynamics.

#3 Learn Solos By Ear

If you want to “hear” better phrases then learn some solid phrases by ear. Often the easier solos to learn like Charlie Christian and Grant Green are also great for learning to hear good phrasing and creative rhythms, and the next topic will help you get a lot more out of what you learn by ear and what you come up with when composing lines.

#5 So Little Theory, So Much Benefit

You have to stop being afraid of the holes, and you also have to remember to wonder. When you are starting out learning Jazz then it is easy to try to learn a crazy amount of theory, but what you really want to learn is actually pretty simple, and if you know that then it will teach you the rest, plus that you can learn it in a much more natural way.

When I learned Stella By Starlight and There’s No Greater Love, the first songs I learned, then I couldn’t analyze them. But I still learned to play them, even if I only understood some of what was going on and played some wrong notes here and there. That was one of the things I did right.

Start with really knowing your basic scales, and just start with major. Then make sure that you also know the diatonic chords. Then you can start to recognize things in the songs you play like if you take There Will Never Be Another You.

First, you just look at what the key is and what makes sense just using that (fill that in one by one)

Then maybe you learn what a secondary dominant or a secondary II V is and then there are less gaps, and actually only a few more tricks to learn.

And that is also the best way to learn theory: Have it describe the music that you are already playing!

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5 Habits To Help You Learn Jazz Faster

You don’t learn to play Jazz Guitar in 20 minutes, it is a process and a set of skills that you build over time through practice. That is why you want to get used to doing things the right way, build the habits that help you progress faster so you are not wasting your time.

In this video, I want to discuss some of those habits that can help you level up your playing a lot faster because some of these are not obvious but they are all incredibly effective!

Practice Consistently

When I was studying mathematics at the university in Århus there was a summer where I decided that now I REALLY needed to start practicing every day, something my teachers had been telling me forever. And I still remember going to practice with my band for the first time after practicing daily for a few weeks. The instrument had just opened up for me, and I could play all these new things that I had never been able to play before, which felt amazing!

To be honest, I never had that again, but I immediately learned the lesson of consistent practice and what it could do. Which is maybe one of the most important things I have learned?

But it is more than just playing every day. If you want to improve something then you need to work at it until it really gets in there, and that often takes fairly long, like weeks or months.

The main thing to keep in mind with this is that you want to keep working on the same exercises for some time and track how you are progressing.

Here you keep playing the exercises to get better, and you track your progress to stay motivated. What you want to avoid is that you just scratch the surface and practice something new every day without really getting better. That is a lot less efficient.

This has often been a part of how I have worked when I have really improved my playing, especially with technique and speed but also with other things like improvising over difficult chord changes.

It is useful to often remind yourself that nothing will suddenly be something you can just do, you always have to practice, but you will see that later in the video as well.

Evaluate Your Practice

“Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results”

This is often put forward as an Albert Einstein quote, but it probably isn’t.

While Jazz Guitar may qualify as some type of mental illness, then what this will teach us is something else. You need to check if what you practice also helps you get better at the skills you want to improve.

If you are following the advice of practicing consistently then you also need to look at what you practice and compare that to what is improving in your playing, and maybe look at what you want to get better at and change or come up with exercises that focus on that skill.

You can do this by trying to have a list of goals that you want to improve. That is anyway a good exercise, because the more specific you can be about what you want to learn, the easier it will be to learn it. It is amazing how much time is wasted fumbling around in the dark. You won’t learn to improvise over a Jazz Blues by practicing scales or get better at comping by just practicing chord voicings.

This is very important so that you don’t spend hours working on something that won’t help you get better at the things you want to level up, and one of the main things to have in there is the next habit:

Use What You Practice

I say this very often in my videos, and it is something that I have to remind students of all the time!

“Work on using the things that you practice if you want them as a part of your playing!”

And this goes for diatonic arpeggios, drop2 voicings, or pretty much anything else. If you don’t have a strategy for getting it into your playing then you are probably wasting practice time.

Building this habit often means that you have to find a way to go from a basic technical exercise into something you use while playing, and often the missing link here is to use some form of composition and explore how you can connect the new material with all the other things you already have in your vocabulary.

This is something you want to keep in mind with your evaluation of your practice routines and pay attention to so that you make sure that you get the most out of all the exercises you do and that you are not wasting time on stuff that you can’t use.

It is also something that you want to think about when you come up with exercises, if you practice something that you have no idea how to use then you should wonder if it is really what you should be practicing.

Borrow Other Peoples Ears

I guess I am old-fashioned with this, but I am pretty sure that the most efficient way to learn is to take lessons with a good teacher. You can always disagree in the comments.

The important thing to realize is that if you are learning something new then you have to rely on your own ear to figure out if it is good enough or what is wrong, and sometimes we forget that you need a trained ear to recognize things like phrasing problems, swing-feel or even just how melodies lock in with the changes.

That is the biggest part of why you take lessons to get access to an experienced listener that will tell you what to work on. That is also why I use the community in my online course to give feedback on how the students are doing, which even helps with things that I don’t always talk about in the course.

If you don’t have access to a teacher in some form then you can also find people to practice with or even use Facebook groups like my Jazz Guitar Insiders group. Posting a video and saying what you are working on can give you a ton of useful feedback. With posting videos on the internet you do want to be aware of the amount of nonsense you can also get, so it pays to know who is commenting so that you know who to listen to and who to ignore

Play With Other People

Jazz is not a solo art form. It was developed in bands and it is about making music together and communicating with each other while improvising, but there are more reasons why it is very useful to make music with other people.

For me, this was always the most fun part of playing Jazz; Making music with others, and that is also clear from the fact that I learned a huge chunk of my repertoire playing in the streets of Copenhagen with a bass player before I started studying in the Hague.

What I see as the most important advantage is that you

  1. Are forced to play and make things work
  2. Have to take everything to where you can use it
  3. Have more fun and stay motivated.

And these are all 3 more important than you might think when it comes to learning, so if you don’t play with other people and you want to play better Jazz, then seek out the opportunities and find people to play some songs with and both learn and enjoy that experience.

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Jazz Beginner – 5 Myths That Waste Your Time

There are a lot of things that you need to learn as a beginner with jazz guitar, but sometimes you come across a myth that promises to be a magic solution for all your problems, and I think we should talk about a few of those because they can make you waste a lot of time and you end up working on wrong things while ignoring important skills.

In fact, a lot of these are about trying to avoid learning something that is actually very useful.

I Don’t Need To Learn Songs If I Can Hear Everything

One of the worst things to use instead of a rehearsal is this sentence: “don’t worry, you’ll hear it” And it was also this sentence that began what was probably one of the most stressful moments in my life.

I was subbing for my teacher in a band that was playing a jazz festival, it was a quartet with horn, guitar, bass, and drums. We didn’t rehearse, and just before starting Body and Soul, the band-leader told me that he wanted to do the verse in a duo with me before the theme. I told him that I didn’t know the verse so that would be a terrible idea, and his answer was “don’t worry, you’ll hear it”

What followed felt like the longest 2-3 hours of my life while I was completely clueless and trying to harmonize what he was playing in front of a hall full of people. Of course, In reality, It was probably less than a minute. There are times where you can get away with winging something like this, but with this melody, that is practically impossible. You can really hear the changes and modulations from just hearing that melody. Needless to say, I felt extremely bad messing this up in a band with people I did not know.

But, sometimes you don’t have a chance and not even the greatest ear would be able to tell what is going on. I took comfort in a story pianist Jim McNeely told us when he was a guest conductor in the conservatory big band. He was touring with Sonny Stitt and they had agreed that Stitt could not just begin songs without asking the band if they knew it, for obvious reasons. But one night Stitt just started a song, and McNeely didn’t know it, so he looked at the bass player, who also didn’t know it. And after playing for a while the only thing he knew was that the first chord was Eb and the last chord was Eb. This happens to everybody, and you can’t do everything by ear.

Sometimes I hear students saying:

“I want to practice ear training so that I can instantly hear all songs”.

I guess this seems easier, you just do ear training and play everything by ear.

Now, Don’t get me wrong here, you should train your ears as much as possible, but that comment is really just coming from ignorance or at least inexperience, because what is one of the best ways to train your ears? Learn a lot of songs by ear, and use the songs you know to teach you the songs you are learning, by ear. So really, combing this with theory is only going to help you even more. If you know that the song is in C major then you can probably hear that the chord before that C major is a G7. It helps to have an idea about what you might expect and also whether it sounds like what you expect.

And what will you do if you have to play a song that you don’t know and you have to play the chords? Imagine that with One Note Samba. If you don’t know it then the first 8 bars could be all tonic or a ton of other things.

Of course, sometimes you will have to do some songs by ear that you don’t know, not in the horror scenario that I described and it is useful to be able to do that, but it isn’t something you need to do very often, and your solos are a lot better if you already know that song, so that option is just always what you want to go for.

Theory Well Ruin Your Creativity

“Wes Montgomery didn’t know theory so why should I”

It is probably true that a lot of, especially early great artists, didn’t know a lot of theory, but that doesn’t mean that the best and most efficient way to learn to play Jazz is to not understand what is going on. In fact, a lot of things get a lot easier if you know a little theory.

Let me give you an example:

If you transcribe a great lick like this

Example 1a then that works great on a tonic chord, but if you can see the blocks that it contains then you can also make a G7 version of it

and you can even make a version with a dominant triad for a Gm7 like this:

I am sure you can see how that is useful, and this is just a single example of using very basic theory. The theory will help you learn and understand a lot of things a lot faster, and while it does not help you with everything then there is no real reason to avoid it.

I Want To REALLY Improvise, Not Play Licks Or Arpeggios

“I Want To REALLY Improvise, Not Play Licks Or Arpeggios Like Everybody Else!”

I come across comments like this at least once every week. Usually, the thought behind it is that You don’t want to sound like other people, so you won’t play or practice things that they play.

I sort of get the idea, but a few things to keep in mind here. First, how restricted are you by studying arpeggios?

You can get a D7 arpeggio to sound like this: Mozart Eine Kleine Nacht Musik

and you can also get it to sound like this:

So learning a D7 arpeggio is not really going to limit your style or how much you sound like you.

And secondly, the same goes for studying solos and licks, if you want to write a great book then it might be a good idea to read some books to figure out how. Just learning the alphabet is not going to cut it.

You Need To Know All Scales And Arpeggios To Play Jazz

“I Am Going To Spend Two Years Learning All The Scales And All The Arpeggios And THEN I Am Going To Learn To Play Jazz”

This is another comment that I see quite often, some even go even further and say that you first need to learn music theory and voice-leading before you even try to play Jazz.

Again there is nothing wrong with learning scales, arpeggios, harmony, and theory. It is useful for playing Jazz, but it is not where it starts, they are just skills and not really the music.

When I sat down to learn solos by ear or struggled for weeks to learn the first few standards then I was not first learning to play all diatonic arpeggios of melodic minor in all keys. That came a lot later. And the same goes for all the students I have ever taught, there is no reason to first spend years learning abstract exercises before you start playing music. It is like suggesting that you need a PH.D in grammar before you try to write a story.

I Just Need To Play What I Hear

“If I Just Learn To Play What I Hear, Then I Can Play Great Solos And I Don’t Need To Practice Licks Or Check Out Solos”

While you do want to learn to hear Jazz melodies that you can play, and you want to work on having a connection from your ear to your instrument, then don’t think that this skill is a shortcut that means that you don’t need to learn to actually hear those melodies. That is a part of it as well and it takes some work to get them in there. Usually, statements like this are because you probably don’t know what it means to hear something and then play it.

Hal Galper talks about it in one of his masterclasses:

And you need to teach yourself to hear the things you play.

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5 Easy Solos to Learn By Ear and Boost Your Jazz Guitar Skills

Learning to play Jazz is a huge challenge, and when I started out then I spent a lot of time working out some solos by ear which taught me a lot of things, and also a lot of things I didn’t realize I was learning. In this video, I am going to recommend some good solos if you want to get started learning solos by ear, some I checked out myself in the beginning and some that I have use often with students, and along the way, I am going to talk about what you learn and give you some tips about how to learn from by ear.

The most efficient way to learn what is probably a lot of the most important things in Jazz is to learn solos by ear, what we often call transcribing even though you might not really want to write them down, but I will talk about that later. Among other things this is something that helps you improve: Swing, Timing, Phrasing, Dynamics, Shape, Contrast, Build up, Technique, Fretboard Knowledge.

This is pretty difficult to get started with, and getting sensible suggestions that help you get started with this is something that there are nowhere near enough recommendations for. I will go over some more tips later in the video, but If you are new to Jazz then don’t start by transcribing Charlie Parker on Donna Lee or John Coltrane on Countdown, find some short and easy examples and build your skills so that you give yourself the best possible chance to develop this ability. Otherwise, you are just going to get frustrated and fail

The Conga Conundrum

The first solo is one that I did not check out when I was learning Jazz, in fact, I somehow missed Kenny Burrell almost completely for some reason and didn’t discover him until much later, but this is the opening track from a truly iconic jazz guitar album: Midnight Blue. A weird side-step here, but In the early 60s everybody had to add conga’s to their jazz albums. You can hear that with Pat Martino but also with Wes (El hombre and Cotton Tail)

I wish somebody could explain to me why they did that?

Kenny Burrell – Chitlins Con Carne

This is one of the first solos that I give to my students, mainly because it is just a medium 12-bar blues in C, not even a Jazz Blues because there is no II V. Kenny Burrell is mostly just using C minor pentatonic and you can play it mostly in the Box 1 pentatonic position. The lines are great, so you learn how he is using a lot of interesting techniques, melodies, and phrasing.

On the recording, Kenny Burrell is comping himself, with the C7#9 but to make it easier in the beginning then I usually tell students to leave out the chords, just to make it simpler. In a way, the fact that Kenny Burrell plays the chords really helps make the whole thing easier to learn, because it is keeping the phrases compact, and with a clear beginning and end, divided by the chords.

This solo is very easy, and I tend to use it to help people get started transcribing and really get used to how it is to learn a solo by ear more than trying to teach phrasing and vocabulary, but of course, you do learn a lot of other things while checking out the solo. Starting to get used to learning by ear will help you pick up a lot of things so much faster, so that is extremely important and useful and that is important enough to see learning this solo by ear as an independent goal.

I’ll talk more about some of the things you want to do when you are transcribing solos later in the video.

Let’s take another example which was one of the very first solos I ever learned played by no other than the father of Jazz Guitar!

Charlie Christian – Grand Slam

Sometimes you learn a solo just because you are curious about what is being played and why it sounds like Jazz. That was the main reason I checked out Charlie Christian’s Grand Slam solo. At that point, I had an idea about what it meant to solo over changes but I hadn’t figured out enough examples to really know what to do and how it worked.

This 30-second 2-chorus blues solo by Charlie Christian is a great study in especially rhythm. Charlie Christians playing here is bebop-related, but the lines are as much swing language as they are bop, and they are great clear examples of that. Often having rhythms like this in your playing is really overlooked, but it will really boost how you sound if you work on it.

This was on one of the first Jazz CDs that I ever bought and I sat down and learned this solo in a day to figure out what was going on. At the time I was tuning my Strat down a half step and not being familiar with Jazz found the key of F for a blues a very odd choice (and I was in fact playing it in F# of course), I have since become more used to playing Blues in F, maybe even more so than in E…

Two other guitarists, that I checked out a lot, both talk about Charlie Christian as their main influence: Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall. Jim Hall even credits the Grand Slam solo as the reason for him getting into playing Jazz.

Grant Green – Cool Blues

Another solo that I picked up along the way as a teacher was Grant Green’s solo on Cool Blues. Grant Green is a great resource for learning Bebop on guitar and most of my students have had his solos as homework.

This solo is on Green’s “Born To Be Blue Album” and it is full of the typical strong Bebop Grant Green language that is so useful to check out and also very playable on the guitar. I imagine he got it straight from Parker, but I actually don’t know. This is a practical solo because the tempo is relaxed and the solo is not that long.

A bonus to this recording is that Grant takes an extra solo before the last theme, so if you are in the zone you can check that out as well.

Don’t forget to like the video if you find this useful, that is a huge help for me and the channel.

Tips for Transcribing solos

There is a right and a wrong way to go about learning a solo by ear, and here are a few things you want to pay attention to and try to get right when you are learning a solo.

Listen To The Solo (And Then Listen To It Another 10 times)

This can not be understated, the more you listen to the solo the easier it will be for you to learn to play it, and trust me, you will probably save time if you first just listen to the solo a lot, and I mean REALLY a lot! In fact, just listen until you can sing it.

Know The Song

Solos in Jazz are generally on a form, and if you know the chords where they are in the song then you are going to have a much easier time learning the solo and hearing what is being played, simply because you know what that part of the song sounds like, for example, if you are transcribing a solo on Just Friends and knows that it goes from Bbmaj7 to Bbm6 then it is easier to figure out what is going on.

Learn Phrases Not Single Notes

If you want to remember what you are learning then it is important that you start thinking of the solo in phrases and learn it phrase by phrase. That way it is going to make more sense and be a lot easier to get into your system. It is similar to how you don’t try to learn a language word for word, but really try to learn to say something.

Don’t Write It Down, Focus On Playing The Solo

I think it is often overlooked what is most useful in learning a solo, because I don’t think it is the exact phrases or notes. It is much more about the way the phrase sits on the groove in this performance or the exact phrasing and subtle things like that don’t make into a transcription, so you are better of learning it by ear and memorizing it like that instead of writing it out and then playing what is on the page, which is really more of a reading exercise that leaves a lot of information behind.

Wes Montgomery – Four On Six

Four on Six is probably the most famous Wes song, and the first recording off “The Incredible Jazz Guitar” album is a great solo to check out for some of the things that you definitely want to learn from Wes:

Melodic and short phrases, motivic development, Call-response, rhythm. It is all in there.

For this solo you can also leave out the octave and chord parts as they are more difficult, just learning the first few single-note choruses will already teach you a ton of great stuff.

Learning Wes solos taught me a lot about phrasing and being melodic but still swinging, and the clarity in his melodic ideas are worthwhile checking out for anybody who wants to play Jazz. I ended up having a year in my study where I was always learning Wes solos and got through most of Smokin’ at The Half Note and a lot of other songs as well.

If you want to check out some of my videos on Wes solos then there is a playlist in the video description: Videos analyzing Wes Montgomery solos

George Benson

I have always loved how George Benson could make pretty much anything sound like fantastic Jazz phrases, and this solo on “The Borgia Stick, off The George Benson Cook Book” is no exception. This was also one of the first solos that I say down and obsessed about when I was just starting out, and I am still a bit surprised that I managed to figure out the chords in there.

This solo is great if you are not that at home in Jazz Harmony. The lines are surprisingly simple and most are really just A minor pentatonic stuff, but learning to play them and add all the beautiful rhythms and grace notes in this Benson solo is going to be great for your playing. His use of intervals and chords is also amazing and still fairly simple.

Honorable Mentions

Of course, there are many many solos to check out, and these 5 are just the tip of the iceberg. If you have great suggestions for Jazz guitar solos to learn then leave a comment, maybe we can make an even longer list of recommendations to help learn Jazz..

A few others that I spent time on, in the beginning, deserve a mention as well:

Jim Hall on Stella By Starlight, in fact, that whole first Jim Hall Album is a masterclass in swinging rhythms and motivic development, but the Stella solo is fairly easy to check out.

Another Stella solo is by Ulf Wakenius. This is fairly unknown, and it is off a Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen album called “To A Brother” and Ulf Wakenius is playing a lot simpler than what I am used to from him, but both this solo and the one on Alone Together are great and really helped me out in the first few months when I had trouble telling what was the theme and what was the solo.

Another thing that you should not underestimate is the wealth of great solos that are on YouTube and not on any albums. A Solo that I always found to be a great example of Bensons playing is this really simple 1-chorus solo on Take The A-train from some obscure television show in the 70s. Lots of Blues but only great phrases! There are some hidden gems out there!

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5 Jazz Guitar Tips That Will Save You Years Of Practice

In this video, I will go over 5 things that were game-changing for how I learned Jazz so that you can use those as well.

When you are in the process of learning something, like playing Jazz, then there is a part that is just hard work for a long time, and then there are moments that really change the way you think about something and help you progress a lot faster by practicing in the right way.

#1 Think Ahead

When I started playing Jazz, I spent months practicing before I finally could play a solo on 2 Jazz Standards. I chose to start with Stella By Starlight and There Is No Greater Love, and both of those are pretty horrible choices for a beginner with way too many chords and complicated progressions, but luckily I was pretty stubborn so I just kept going until I could make my way through the song.

This was years before mobile phones when Grunge was still hip, so there are no videos, you will have to settle for a dramatic re-enactment

At this point in time, I was barely able to improvise over the chords, and I had to work hard to find something to play on each of the chords which is what I focused on, and that had a very bad effect on how the solos sounded.

Phrases didn’t really connect or have a longer story to it.

This actually remained a problem for quite a long time. I did not find a way to fix it until more than a year later when I was taught to play changes so that you were thinking of where you need to go, what target note to play towards. This way of thinking made the solos have a much more natural flow and made the melodies a lot stronger.

And that is something that is very important with most things in music: Think Ahead, make sure you are ahead of what you are playing. So play towards target notes, see the voice-leading taking you to the next chord, or learn to read ahead if you are sight-reading.

It will make your life easier and make you sound better, especially in terms of soloing if you combine it with the next tip.

I have a video on how I apply this to playing chord changes that you can check out here:

#2 Arpeggios and Scales – The Right Way

While I was studying in Copenhagen and playing Jazz Standards in the streets, I also had the luck to go to a week-long Barry Harris workshop in The Hague, and one of the things that I took away from that is also a cornerstone in how I teach and one thing that is really overlooked in learning Jazz on the guitar.

Usually, when we think about arpeggios, these position boxes show all the notes of a m7 arpeggio in a given position. This way of learning them is good for being able to see the notes on the fretboard, but it almost completely fails at helping you learn how to incorporate them into your playing, and there is a much better way to practice them.

The exercise that Barry told me to practice, was to play all the arpeggios in the scale, not as separate boxes that don’t naturally connect to the rest of what you use when you play.

Most of the time, the chords will change, but the scale stays the same and when you make lines, you are not only using arpeggios all the time, so having the arpeggio placed in the context of the scale will make a lot more sense.

Working on this exercise also gives you something that is much closer to the way arpeggios are used typically used in Bop-inspired lines, which is not often using several octaves of one arpeggio, but mostly just one-octave melodies in the middle of a line.

My most viewed video on the channel digs into this and how you use it to make some great bebop-inspired lines, and last tip in this video is probably the advice that I give the most as an answer online.

You can check out the video on practicing arpeggios and making lines here:

#3 Keep it Simple

— Play a solo then stop and start talking?

It is actually pretty simple, and you don’t want to make it too complicated. In a way, I was lucky that I could read sheet music because of my classical lessons, because it helped me figure out some things from reading transcriptions that I would have had a much harder time learning by ear.

One of the things that really fascinated me when I first started to listen to Charlie Parker was how the solo would sound different from moment to moment. This was very different from what I was used to with most of the blues and rock solos that I was listening to where most of the time everything stayed in one scale across the chords not really playing melodies that were following the changes that closely.

That sounds complicated, but if you check out jazz solos then most of the time the way the phrases follow the changes is actually pretty simple. It is just about hitting the chord tones on the important notes of the melody and usually also somehow connected to the heavy beats, give or take a suspension or rhythmic variation.

In the beginning, playing simple and clear solos will help you really get that connection. And that may seem different from how you think about “complicated Jazz” with extensions, alterations, and upper-structure triads, but you want to hit those 3rds and 5ths and get that to make sense so that you later can choose to be vague and clear and use that in your solos.

So keep it simple and make sure you can hear the chords in your solo.

#4 Jazz Chords Done The Wrong Way

The people I checked out before getting into Jazz probably offered me a shortcut when it came to this. When you first start out learning chords on the guitar then everything is based on grips which is a practical and visual way to learn chords, but when it comes to playing Jazz harmony then that approach is not that useful. In Jazz, connecting the chords across the bar line with both melody and voice-leading is much more important. And you will realize that the chord voicings are something that you can change and mess around with. Something you can use creatively and get to fit together, turning them into beautiful music. This will open up your comping and your fretboard to a sea of possibilities and not just a few grips.

Before I got into Jazz I was checking out a lot of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan and both of these have more of an open way to work with chords which include improvising with them and not playing the same voicings all the time, and in that respect, I already thought of chords as something you could change and move around which in hindsight made the transition to Jazz comping a lot easier since that works exactly the same.

The last tip is probably the advice I give the most as an answer online and also the most effective way to learn Jazz.

What Was A Shortcut That Helped You?

Maybe you have another tip that really changed things for your playing or you don’t agree with any of this? then let me know about that in the comments

#5 The Thing That Ties It All Together

At the beginning of the video, I talked about how I spent a long time learning two songs that were actually a bit too difficult and that in hindsight being stubborn and powering through to get those two songs down, even if it sounded pretty badly was very useful. The same can certainly be said for building a repertoire while playing in the streets of Copenhagen. One thing that I see very often, especially now that there is so more jazz educational material available, is that it stays too superficial, you practice some licks and exercises but it does not become a part of your playing and maybe you don’t even really focus on learning songs. That is a huge mistake.

Think of it like this:

if you only learn a few new things but make sure to be able to use them on all the songs you know then you will sound better and play great solos on all those songs, which is pretty much everything you can play.

If you learn something that you can’t put to use on any songs then what are you really spending time on?

For me, learning those two songs and later spending a lot of time playing songs in the streets of Copenhagen was a huge help in getting to use everything and in that way really getting better, so that first song is worth really pushing through. Of course, if you want some help in getting through that then you can check out the Jazz Guitar Roadmap which is about exactly that process of really getting a song down.

Check out the Jazz Guitar Roadmap

Bonus Tip: A Bit Of Healthy Realism

With all the exercises that you are told to do and ways of learning very specific things then it can mean that you get a little detached from the actual music.

Just like playing songs is the way to learn to use what you practice then often it is a very good idea to also find the things to start practicing in the music that already exists.

And of course, the way you do that is by transcribing solos, that way you get insight into what arpeggios go where, how they sound and how to use them.

This also helps you not going down strange rabbit holes like using all the diatonic arpeggio on each chord and other strange time-consuming unrealistic goals that I have seen people waste time on.

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If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for topics then, please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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